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Doug Robinson: Champion of the community college

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 9:47 p.m. MDT

“If I have a pain in my left side, I’m going to call an ambulance to transport me to the medical center,” says Bioteau, beginning a favorite narrative. “When the ambulance comes, I hope it’s been maintained by a graduate of the automotive program at SLCC. And the EMT who jumps out and stabilizes me is also educated by SLCC. And when I get to the U. of U. medical center, it’s not a doctor who meets me, it’s a triage nurse in the emergency room who is also educated at SLCC. If those pieces have not been in place, if these people are not trained at SLCC, I never would have survived to meet the doctor at the hospital. A community needs all those pieces.”

Bioteau, a pleasant and youthful 60-year-old who has worked 12 to 14 hours a day for SLCC, comes by her passion for the community college and education personally. Growing up in a small town in New Hampshire, she made the town library her connection to the outside world and education in general. She began a career in education and special ed, but took 12 years off to raise two children, along with sheep and blueberries. She and her husband, Frank, ate what they grew and hunted. When her children were grown, Bioteau returned to education and discovered community colleges.

“Suddenly, I found my place,” she says. “It was unlike any environment I had been in. The students valued their education. It was life skill and survival. I was just so humbled by the various people from so many walks of life that led students to get that education.”

She earned a doctorate and in 2005 overcame long odds to land the president’s position at SLCC. She was the only woman among the five finalists, and an outsider to boot, but she aced the interviews with her knowledge of the local culture and educational challenges.

“She has been a breath of fresh air,” says Gail Miller, who was a member of the selection committee. “She is a role model for women who aspire to be in positions of trust and responsibility, because she is good at it. You don’t have to be pompous to do a good job. Watch her methods.”’

Those who know Bioteau tend to gush like that about her. Scott Anderson, the Zions Bank executive who has served on several boards with Bioteau (his wife Jesselie is on the board of trustees), says, “She’s a remarkable person. Look at the results she has delivered at SLCC. She’s a dynamite woman who has great thought processes.”

“She’s a treasure,” says Marlin Jensen, a member of the Utah Board of Regents. “I’ve never seen anyone who has a better grasp of the issues of her realm of responsibility. We all realize we have a jewel there who could go anywhere in the country and pay her more.”

Now that is exactly what will happen. Last week Bioteau was named president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, a job she will likely begin in January. Bioteau and her husband had planned to retire in Florida someday. In the meantime, she will continue her mission of education and the value of community colleges.

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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